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To wish that nurses would think twice about calling older people 'sweetheart' and 'darling'

(302 Posts)
TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 11-Jul-13 09:36:12

I know, I know, they are trying to be nice, they are good people, if all I have to worry about is the terms of endearment the HCPs use, I have a lucky life, etc.

But I can't help feeling that many older people (and younger, too, actually, because they do it to them too) inwardly flinch at being called sweetheart and darls, with lots of 'bless yous' in between. Which is what nurses in particular seem to do.

My grandad's a grown up man with all his faculties; he's not quite with it at the moment after surgery, and the indignity of that position seems to me to made worse when, towards the end of your life, you're suddenly addressed like a baby. 'Alright darls, ooh you don't like that do you, bless you' etc - I know they're trying to be kind, and they are kind, but couldn't they just think twice about how they address people older than them, and consider that it might be a tad patronizing?

Or is that unreasonable of me?

sagfold Tue 16-Jul-13 19:22:49

I'm with you there, TheOriginal, absolutely. And for what it's worth this nurse finds that post by Justkeepon nauseating.

lessonsintightropes Tue 16-Jul-13 19:20:51

Verlaine concur with everything you have said. You've articulated - extremely well - my feelings on the subject, having had experiences of my own and that of my now departed DGM and partner's DGM who has been in an out of hospital for the last few months. Empathy should be about the feelings of the person being treated, not the ego of the care giver which as others have stated is in a position of power. I know nurses do an amazing job but this can make a real difference to how the patient feels.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 16-Jul-13 18:09:32

And I'm sorry, justkeepon, but I don't get how you'd like to whisper sweet nothings to me and lay out my poor pale corpse and stroke my hair all night because you are so loving and kind, but if I managed to gather enough breath so say 'could you please call me Dr B, or at least by my name, it really would be more comfortable for me', you'd think that was unreasonable. Kindness and compassion shouldnt be contingent upon someone else agreeing with you about the most appropriate and comfortable way of delivering them.

louisianablue2000 Tue 16-Jul-13 17:55:38

Completely agree PO, my grandfather was in long term care and the staff called him by his first name, my Mum shuddered every time she heard it. My father, his son in law, had always had to refer to him as Mr X. That's judt how formal Grandpa was, he never said to Dad 'call me Y' so Dad (having been brought up properly) used his title to his death.

To a certain extent I think the issue might die out, my kids only call people who they see in a professional capacity by their titles, neighbours etc always say 'call me Y'. Having said that I do shudder a bit when I'm called by my first name or MrsX (DH's name) because I'm Dr Blue and I don't want someone who is trying to sell me something calling me Louisiana thankyou very much.

izchaz Tue 16-Jul-13 17:26:22

I work in healthcare, and I tend to use full titles when I first begin to work with a patient/resident/client, then as a rapport builds I'll ask them what they like to be called, and may occasionally use a softer colloquial address if I'm doing something that is or could be construed as uncomfortable or embarrassing for the patient, I find it helps to set the person I'm working with at ease. I always take my cues from them - so if for instance I'm working with someone who prefers a formal approach I will stick to that.
I will confess to having a momentary absence of memory and using "my lad" or "my lass" if the name of the person in question has absolutely left my noggin, but I do try as much as possible to address people as they request.
I can't speak for all HCPs, but in general we try and strike a balance between respectful, aware and approachable; something that is not easy to master every time when working with people who may be tired, distressed, grieving, pained and or disoriented. We do try though.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 16-Jul-13 09:53:41

I don't think there has been a group admission of mass patronisation at all! And I know not everyone does it.

sagfold Tue 16-Jul-13 09:51:15

Also, OP I'd just like to point out that I am a nurse and work in a hospital and genuinely can only think of one nurse (and in my time I have worked all over the hospital) who routinely addresses patients by way of endearments rather than by name.

It's just the way you say that some nurses have said that they will reflect on what has been said on this thread (I am one of them) could be taken as a group admission of mass patronisation and I don't think that that it is so. I may or may not have (ever) used a term of endearment and if I do it is very rare and used after assessing what I think is appropriate to that situation.

Also, probably only deployed as an expression of genuine affection. Sometimes you can get quite emotionally attached to patients. Often at handover time a chunk of time is devoted to finding out what happened to so and so who you find is no longer on the ward. The relationship is much closer between patient and nurse than, say customer and checkout staff and this is reflected in language used in conmunication.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 16-Jul-13 09:32:36

OP here ... yes, if I try to put myself in the staff's shoes, and imagine walking into a room with the patient's name at the door, including, it seems, preferred method of address (ie., some say Mr X and some say Joe Bloggs) and then looking at my notes to see what needs doing under that patient's name, if I try to imagine calling that patient darls, I'm afraid I feel quite presumptuous and worried that I will seem patronizing or as though I don't know their name. They're not mind readers, no, but they do read the door and the notes in their hands.

All I ever asked was could they think twice - actually, as I asked was, is it unreasonable to wish they would. As this thread indicates than an awful lot of people do feel uncomfortable with this, and it doesn't make them feel special and cared-for, it's very heartening to see so many nurses commenting that this will indeed think about this a bit.

But there is still a contradiction in that on the one hand we have comments saying that there's no way nurses can remember all the names, and that is why they do it, while some are suggesting they do this as a policy to make patients feel special. I'm still not sure which it is!

Kendodd Mon 15-Jul-13 22:42:36


It's the HCP I feel sorry for, they just can't win. Some people will feel belittled, others will feel uncared for, like they are staying in an hotel, not a hospital.

OP have you tried putting yourself in the staff's shoes? They're not mind readers.

shabbatheGreek Mon 15-Jul-13 22:27:16

My Dad has had an horrendous fall today - through the glass panel of his living room door. He has an armful of stitches and it was petrifying.

The male nurse who cared for him in A & E kept saying 'Come on big fella lets get you sorted.' 'Can you manage to get up on the bed for me Big fella.' My Dad loved it - maybe its a 'Northern' thing - we live in Lancashire.

Like I said earlier in the thread I dont give a damn what staff call my parents - all I know is they make them feel special and cared for. That in a hospital that is laying off 500 staff and making cuts. They are stretched to the limits.

amicissimma Mon 15-Jul-13 17:25:26

BTW, justkeeponsmiling, I don't mean to pick on you, personally; it's just that you were the most recent to post in that vein. I think you sound like a lovely nurse, but I think you (and some others) just slightly misinterpret how people can react.

amicissimma Mon 15-Jul-13 17:19:32

I'm sorry, justkeeponsmiling, but I agree with ithaka.

When I am in a vulnerable position I want everybody to be as professional as possible. Just like when I'm in a plane that's bouncing all over the place I like it when the captain comes on the PA, formal and sounding totally in control. If he said 'Hi, this is John, don't worry guys, everything's fine' I'd be very alarmed.

If I'm called baby names I assume that the person isn't in control, they're just placating me. And not even me, but A.N. Other patient. I'm concerned that you don't appear to take this into account in your posts. Forgive me if I'm misinterpreting, but I get the impression that you think I am in the wrong and I should accept that you are nursing me in the 'correct' way. For me it is wrong. You would be making me feel patronised and very uncomfortable. I would just ask that you bear in mind that there are people like me out there, and try to ascertain how each of us would prefer to be addressed.

It's much easier to say 'Please call me John' if addressed as Mr Smith than it is to say 'Please call me Mr Smith' if addressed as John.

JackNoneReacher Mon 15-Jul-13 14:08:19

justkeeponsmiling I've read your post. I hated hearing my elderly relative called patronising baby names but I don't think I'd have minded if it had been you because it sounds like it comes from the right place, rather than laziness or lack of professionalism.

What kind of nurse are you?

hurricanewyn Mon 15-Jul-13 08:51:18

Well, I was on a ward yesterday and called all 6 of the patients I was looking after by their title.

None of them wanted me to - 3 asked me not to straight away ("Mr X is my father, not me." "Please don't. I'm ..." "Call me Y")

One person thought I was taking the piss. Another called me a patronising bitch.

I don't mind that - I've been called far worse & I'll try again, but if it keeps happening I'll revert to first names - it's a hard enough job without looking for problems.

ithaka Mon 15-Jul-13 08:22:20


I appreciate that you do not mean to belittle your patients, but you may be doing it without meaning to.

There is no stage in my life where I would ever want to be called sweetheart, darling or love and that includes when my son died and I washed and dressed his body. Your earlier post made me cringe, actually. Please treat me like an equal, even when I am at my emotional lowest. Just because patients don't complain, that does not mean they don't mind - they may be to battered to stand up for themselves.

Dignity and respect - is that too much to ask for from healthcare providers?

shabbatheGreek Mon 15-Jul-13 08:09:42

Certainly is - well done xx

justkeeponsmiling Mon 15-Jul-13 01:35:25

I promise I will keep treating them, and every one of my patients like my own flesh and blood. Because when it comes down to it, I really think thats all any one of us can ask for, isnt't it?

shabbatheGreek Mon 15-Jul-13 01:28:13

It drives me mad when people put, on MN, 'I havent read all the thread BUT....' Well, for the first time ever I havent read all the thread BUT I have my Mum who is 79 and has Alzheimers and my dear Dad who turned 81 yesterday (my first love) has terminal oral cancer....was told at the beginning of March he had a few weeks left. I DONT GIVE A FLYING FOOK WHAT THE CARERS/NURSES call them!!!!! All I care about is that every person they have had contact with in the NHS has been respectful, humourous and caring.

justkeeponsmiling Mon 15-Jul-13 01:08:46

Hen youn are right, ah Healthcare Professionals we should always try and judge every situation and gadge what the patient wants, and I try really hard. I know sometimes they might want a hug and they don't care what I call them and all they need is kindness. And sometimes, they need distance and respect and dignity, and someone to say "Mrs Jones, we will now do so-and-so"

But what I am trying to say I think, is that even if I get it wrong, and call you sewwtie, or darling or whatever, I don't mean to belittle you!

I jus look at you and see my mother, my sister, my granddad, and I just want to make you better! I just want to take the pain and the indignity of being a patient away and just let you be you, but I CAN'T!

So please know, I don't mean to belittle any of my patients, I'm just trying to help in the only way I feel I can

HenWithAttitude Mon 15-Jul-13 00:37:26

I think context is very important here. Entering the anaesthetic room prior to an evac of my dead baby I sobbed and sobbed and the nurse leant over my trolley side and just cradled and hugged me. She didn't ask permission. She probably could have called me sweetheart-it wouldn't have mattered. This was 11 yrs ago and I remember her, Lindsay, to this day. Her response to me was empathetic acknowledging what I needed

Entering a gynae room recently for a biopsy of suspected cancer I undressed, grateful for the privacy and professionalism displayed. No over familiarity. I wasn't asked what I wanted to be called but nor was I called sweetheart which would have made me feel demeaned. Their behaviour was empathetic acknowledging what I needed

As a HCP I've already said I use a more formal term initially. However I too have hugged patients, put arms around shoulders but equally have stood back and just given silent time whilst a dignified recovery of emotion was made by the patient. Experience has (I hope) made me empathetic to what is desired by that patient in that situation.

I think all HCP should consider this issue. Really consider part of an empathetic response...I.e what might my patient like. No assumptions either way because we are all individuals and all situations are different

justkeeponsmiling Mon 15-Jul-13 00:03:45

Thank you so much collielover
When I went into nursing I promised myself I would always treat my patients as <i would have liked my mother to be treated.
And I do every day.

collielover Sun 14-Jul-13 23:28:29

You will be fine by me justkeeponsmiling A heart and care .

justkeeponsmiling Sun 14-Jul-13 23:11:08


I know there's little chance of anyone ever actually reading this but I had to post-

I'm a nurse and if you are sick or in pain or heartbroken or desparate or confused I will care for you

- I will hold your hand

-I will talk to you all night

- I will stroke your hair untill you fall asleep


-I will say "My sweetheart, I'm here for you"

- "My darling, try not to worry. Tomorrow is another day"

- "My love, tell me about your family"

- "Don't worry sweetie, I'm here all night"

- "You've done ever so well lovie. The worst bit is over, it's only up hill from here!"

- And "I'm here my darling. I'm close sweetheart. I'm watching over you when no one else will. I'm holding you, I'm wiping your forehead, I'M easing your pain and I'll stay with you till the end.
And when you are gone I will wash your pale body and dress you in the nicest clothes I have available and ask for your soul to rest in peace.
I will remember you, no matter if another million people or not a single person does.I promise I will carry you with me and hold your memory dear and never ever forget.



sagfold Sun 14-Jul-13 22:59:42

That's what I mean, nurses also try to be the paient's representative. It shouldn't be a 'them and us' situation.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Sun 14-Jul-13 22:32:50

Well, I'm not precious, or upset, or offended, or even professionally offended... I just thought it would be good if nurses, as I suggested, gave it a thought, because some patients may be less comfortable with it than they feel able to say.

It makes me really happy to see posts from nurses who've said they will think about that, thanks to all of you.

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